After the other writers in my crtique class mentioned "needing more background" about the Hidden Frontier and a little discussion, the consensus was that I needed a "thumbnail history."
You often find this in series books, in one form or another -- an introduction, a series of historical digressions by a character, a simple "what when on before" synopsis -- and I have known I needed to write one.
It's no simple task, thanks to the complexity of the Hidden Frontier timeline and the need to deliberately obscure some facts, like the how the Steam Amish ended up where they are and why they're so skittish, makes it a challenge. The way the "war" is never quite a real war, due to the vast distances involved and the unwillingness of the Edgers to strike directly against Earth and its vast human-friendly biome (at least compared to everywhere else), the internal struggles during and after the war on Trinity, the difficulties after the war on Frothup, Ryall and A-10, the first breaking away to join the Earth-aligned worlds (the Moon, Kansas II and Blizzard) and the latter two, distant and obscure, becoming, briefly, grotty little central-planning economies -- it's a lot, really.
The trick, of course, is doing as historians have always done: hit the high points. The Magna Carta, the battle of Trafalgar, Yorktown, the Constitutional Convention, the War of 1812, the Late Civil Unpleasantness Between The States, and so on. Then, in in given use of the thumbnail, leave out what doesn't apply.
For example, I have mentioned in a couple of stories that a "Sergeant Snodgrass" was the first man to land on the moon, sometime in 1951. This (and the other complications of the early top-secret OHAP* and the budget fight that nearly did it in until a key U. S. Senator's sudden death) does not need to be mentioned in every use of the history. The fact that OHAP did happen, and resulted in the FCS conspiracy, does, And so on.
It's not completely done, but I think I can come up with a useful template that can serve as a general introduction or be used to inform a character's comments as needed to get readers up to speed on the timeline.
* "Outer Hebrides Agronomy Project," cover name for the black-budget program to develop the stardrive and use it to establish a secret missile base on the Moon.
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